The Fragile

by: Nine Inch Nails

As the double-disc The Fragile unfurls, all of Nine Inch Nails' trademarks -- gargantuan, processed guitars, ominous electro rhythms, near-ambient keyboards, Trent Reznor's shredded vocals and tortured words -- are unveiled, all sounding pretty much how they did on The Downward Spiral. Upon closer inspection, there are new frills, yet these aren't apparent without digging. The Fragile lives up to its title once the first disc is over. There are some detours into noisy bluster (some, like the Marilyn Manson dis "Starfuckers, Inc.," work quite well) but they're surrounded by long, evocative instrumental sections that highlight Reznor's gifts for arrangement. Whenever Reznor crafts delicate, alternately haunting and pretty soundscapes or interesting sonic juxtapositions, The Fragile is compelling. Since they provide a change of pace, the bursts of industrial noise assist the flow of the album, which never feels indulgent, even though it runs over 100 minutes. There's no denying that it's often gripping, offering odd and interesting variations on NIN themes. Reznor's music is immaculately crafted and arranged, with every note and nuance gliding into the next. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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